JUPITER, Fla. - Carlos Beltran expects to make his Grapefruit League debut Sunday as the DH against the Red Sox at Digital Domain Park. But he was less definitive when asked about a timetable for his first game in rightfield, which may not be until March 13 at the earliest.
"Right now, we're going to start with DH," Beltran said. "I just have to play one day, then two days in a row. Follow that program. Honestly, I just want to start seeing live pitching. The work that I've been doing in the outfield, throwing to bases, I feel good doing that. Once I face live pitching and I'm able to run the bases, we can increase that."
Beltran played 64 games last year after a long rehab from January knee surgery. But he treated this winter like the next phase of that recovery process rather than typical offseason conditioning. Beltran didn't start any serious running until shortly before spring training, when he added 60-yard distances - and only in a straight line.
That's why Beltran felt he needed his own program when he arrived in camp, and didn't begin running the bases until last Friday, at about 80 percent effort. By now, Beltran said his surgically repaired right knee is actually more built up than his left, so he returned to the regular drills with his teammates. That included more bases on Tuesday.
"It was good, because - thank God - I didn't feel anything with my knee," Beltran said. "It was running that normally you wouldn't do because obviously you don't get 15 base hits in a game."
Beltran figures he'll need about two weeks to get up to speed and that gives him just enough time before Opening Day, which is April 1 against the Marlins in Miami. Playing the outfield isn't much of a concern, even if he will be in rightfield, a position he has played only three times in 1,626 games of his 13-year career.
Offensively, Beltran also seems to be fine. He's been crushing the ball from both sides of the plate during batting practice, and says there is no comparison between how he feels now and his condition at the end of last season.
When asked Wednesday about possibly being a DH next year, Beltran said he wasn't ready for such a career move, and wouldn't rule out playing centerfield in 2012 - wherever he ends up.
"I feel like I can still play centerfield," Beltran said. "This was just the right move for now."